9 Teaching Lessons for Critical Instructional Design

In 1965, a psychologist named Robert Gagne tried to figure out the most effective way of learning. He relied on findings on mental conditions for learning and proposed a nine-step instruction method to improve learning and retention rate among students and adults alike. These 9 instructional steps have found their application in many fields, including critical instructional design. So what are these nine steps or Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction?


1. Grab Your Learners’ Attention

Whatever you can do to grab your learners’ attention, do it. You may go with the common thought-provoking questions or present students with a problem or a dilemma to solve. Another way to grab their attention is to engage or immerse them in short and to-the-point media snippets. One more way to grab someone’s attention is by presenting them with a piece of information they are completely unfamiliar with. If you teach languages, or you offer language-related service, contact TranslateHub and have them translate language bits and pieces to another language, let’s say from English to Italian. Then, present your learners with the goal of deciphering the message.

2. Let the Learners Know the Objectives of the Course / Class / Material

Informed learners are good learners. This is why so many software solutions have a small walk-through tour when you boot their software or online service for the first time – the designers follow the instructional design methodologies. You should do the same: present your learners with prerequisites for successfully passing the training or the course. Having clear objectives informs the learners of what your expectations of them and the class is.

3. Rely on Previous Lessons

In dealing with new material, you should also rely on previous lessons. This is a proven technique for memorizing and learning faster. On a more cognitive level, what happens here is that the old knowledge is evoked, moved to short-term memory, where new information can attach itself to it quickly. This is a known method that is nowadays incorporated in many learning experiences – the majority of apps and software use the legendary floppy disk icon for the ‘save’ function.

4. Teach the Content of the Class or Training

The next natural step is teaching the contents of the class or training. This teaching should not be lecture style, but should rather employ:

  • Student narration,
  • media, such as video,
  • Audio materials to boost focus,
  • Blackboard sketching, writing, etc.

5. Be There as a Guide, Not a Lecturer

A good instructor is there as a guide, not a lecturer. You should imagine that your role is that of training wheels on a bike. As the learner learns more, your role is less and less prominent. In our imaginary language classroom, you would ideally search for translation companies online, have them translate a text segment, and keep it as a key. You would then present students with a translation issue and use your key as a guide, not a simple answer sheet.

6. Let the Learners Practice on Their Own

Make the learners practice on their own. Several activities designed to rely on their intelligence and existing experience can help in this. Furthermore, varying degrees of difficulty can help learners stay motivated and on track. Ensure these activities increase in difficulty and not vice-versa.

7. Give Feedback to Your Learners

Every training should have a feedback period at the end of the class. Be mindful of your students’ needs and make sure the feedback is always confirmatory – acknowledge their strong points. Focusing on their weak points can discourage them in the long run and create problems in future learning.

8. Assess / Grade Your Learners’ Performance

Grading in Critical Instructional Design is multifold and relies on students as well. Peer assessment, evaluation, and self-evaluation are all necessary by this model. Having the students join the instructor in assessment offers more perspectives and makes learners learn about grading.

9. Revise and Revise and Revise To Enhance Retention

Revision of what has been learned does not need to follow the classic but overused repetition. Rather, implementing the new content in upcoming classes is recommended by Gagne. After all, this imaginary class was started by repeating what was learned in several other classes to help with new content retention. Integrated Revision is the best possible way to revise: the students will revise effortlessly and in a natural way.

Final Thoughts

Gagne’s nine events of instruction have a myriad of applications. They can be found in many classrooms, universities, and even companies, where they prove to be very valuable and effective. Critical Instructional Design, stemming from Gagne’s theory, has proven to be equally effective in curriculum, service, and product design and seems to be here to stay. In recent years, eLearning Instructional Design has been on the rise as well. Implement these critical Instruction Design Methods for better results among your students, customers, and employees.

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